Spring has sprung here in Dallas, and there’s a thick yellow layer of pollen all over everything to prove it! Regardless of my onslaught of sneezes, perpetually runny nose and sandpapery, itchy eyes caused by “Pollengeddon,” it’s still my favorite season of the year. All the excitement of new life and rebirth outweighs the allergy suffering, even as I add yet another drop to my bloodshot eyes and another sniff to my nasal passages. It seems appropriate as well that Easter falls within this season. Jesus was brought back to life, just as we are all made new in Him; new creations with new hope. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
With the fullness and bounty of Spring life, our Good Word Project team prayed and received not just one, but a trifecta of words for this month! Restore, refresh and renew are the themes which seem to encompass this glorious time of year, so that’s what we’ll be writing about for the next several weeks.
For me personally, this season has brought some new life milestones and changes that represent our three “re-” words well. First, there was a slight sense of urgency at the beginning of this year for me to undergo a radical hysterectomy. Everything is fine now, and thankfully, I’m healthy and adjusting to a new normal; one that leaves behind more uncomfortable, bloated, embarrassing and painful months than not. We were done having children, so this new life chapter is one of great freedom for me; a restoration of white tennis skirts and skinny jeans and a renewal of energy and consistency that I desperately needed. I feel ten years younger, more fit and definitely more even-keeled (my husband is likely celebrating that last one more than anyone!)
Secondly, our son is living away from home for the first time this year. He attends an out-of-state military boarding school and was so eager to get a head start on his resume and leadership development to prepare himself for the road he believes he’s being called to walk. This Spring continues a season of firsts for our family, as we adjust to the distance, dynamic and details of maintaining a relationship from afar. Easter was the first holiday since the day he was born that our son was not with us. Oh, my momma heart ached for him, and I may have (totally!) over-texted, emailed and Face-timed that weekend just to keep my heart refreshed. Thankfully, we had also recently seen him for Spring break, and we have two additional trips on the horizon with him. I’m about to see him more frequently than I have all year (hooray!!!) and my heart will be restored to fullness as we celebrate togetherness and all the maturity and accomplishment that has happened over the course of this school year.
Thirdly, my eyes have failed me. At every distance. About twenty years ago, I had LASIK surgery done to correct my near-sightedness (I can’t see distance clearly.) It worked perfectly, and I thought my perfect vision would last forever, with the exception of needing reading glasses later in life. “Later” happened about three years ago, and I’ve easily dealt with that by picking up cute readers and scattering them everywhere I go. This past year, though, I noticed that I could no longer see clearly from a distance again. What? I thought I had already handled this! Alas, I have recently been re-educated on this matter. It turns out that twenty years is about the longevity of LASIK, and my vision will continue to deteriorate with age, so bring on the glasses and…you guessed it…bifocals! (These now have blended lines and are called “progressives,” which sounds much cooler!) Ok, they may not actually be “cool,” but you know what? They restore the clarity that age had stolen away! Crisp, sharp vision has been renewed and my willingness to drive at night has been refreshed, now that headlights don’t produce distracting starbursts! And, to add icing to this already sweet cake, my eye doctor discovered that my eyes are chronically dry, and she provided simple and effective solutions for me. Double refreshment!!! My eyes have actually never been better!
What do these three things have in common, and what do they have to do with our three words for this month?
The start of each of my three real-life scenarios seemed dark, like I was headed down a bad path. I had a physical situation that was “inviting cancer,” according to my doctor, and I needed a major surgery. My family seemed like it was breaking apart – far in advance of our planned-for milestone age and much to our (slightly jarring) surprise. My vision was failing with my own age and was beginning to prevent me from living life “as usual” with the limitations I was experiencing. Dang, this life chapter was kicking my butt and knocking me down! These weren’t things I wanted or would have chosen to invite into my life. None of it was what I had planned; none of it was celebrated, but in every case, the story was still being written. God was at work, and I needed to be patient and let Him unfold the pages to reveal things that turned out far better than I had imagined.
I didn’t just need new glasses, I needed a “new lens” on life. Just like glasses correct vision, I needed some correcting and reminding of truth!
He Goes Before Me.
My first corrective lens was the reminder that although each of these life events surprised me, none of them surprised God. He always knows in advance and goes in advance.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)
Before the day I was born, God knew all these things would happen – every detail – in my life. He loves me (and you!) and like any good father does, He goes before us and sees what’s ahead…and then he walks through it with us. We are never alone!
This doesn’t mean that we won’t go through difficult, frightening or even hurtful times. In fact the Bible tells us we should expect suffering (ugh!), but the key to remember is that God will remain with us through it, so we can have hope. He will RENEW our strength for the battles we need to fight.
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
He is a Redeemer.
My second corrective lens was the reminder of who God is: a Redeemer (another “re-” word!) He uses ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28) It seems obvious, of course, that He can and will use the good things in our lives to draw us closer to Him and the plans He has for us…but the bad things? That’s a much taller order. It’s much, much harder (often miraculous) to transform the bad into good and purposeful tools that bring meaning and joy to us…and ultimately, glory to Him. But that is, indeed, who He is and what He does. His redeeming work in our lives RESTORES and establishes us. He makes us better, friends. Far better than we could be on our own.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 ESV)
He is Trustworthy.
My third corrective lens was the reminder that God is always for us. We are His children. He provides for us, loves us and wants life to the fullest for us. He has given us an Advocate in Christ, a witness in the Holy Spirit, the very breath that keeps us alive and an awareness that draws us to Him. He wants to be in a close relationship with us, and He is persistent and consistent in that. He is good, and He wants us to experience His goodness, so much so that He provided a way for us to do just that. Forever. If ever there was a picture of trustworthiness, God is it.
But life is hard and complicated and sometimes dark and sad. It can be an exhausting uphill journey, carrying a heavy load, feeling tired and hungry and thirsty. It can feel long, lonely and languishing. We can become weighted down by the heaviness of the journey through and out of valleys.
During those times, especially, we need to remind ourselves that God sees things that we don’t. He has a view from above that isn’t restricted by time or space. If we trust Him and give our worries to Him, He will more than get us through life, and He will REFRESH and sustain us for the journey.
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25 NIV)
I wonder sometimes about perspective. Human perspective, that is. Sure, we can be smart and experienced in life, but I also wonder if it would even be possible to recognize the height of the mountain tops if we didn’t also see the valleys down below? Could we truly understand the magnitude of God’s goodness, if we didn’t have any trials or sufferings? Would we rejoice and give praise if we had never overcome a difficulty or pain? Would we appreciate the value of refreshment, restoration and renewal if we never felt exhausted, depleted or defeated?
Could trials in our lives actually make us more attuned to the blessings?
The journey of life is long and complex, but we have a loving God who wants to journey with us. He is worthy of more than our trust. He’s worthy of our lives. He sacrificed His own Son’s life for us, after all. We must invite Him in to help us see the whole picture, to patiently wait for His blessings and to draw from his wellspring in the meantime. He has restoration, refreshment and renewal for us.
Maybe we’re letting life bring us down, and we need to reach out to Him and others. Maybe we’re trying to control too much, and we can no longer see there forest for the trees. Maybe we’ve allowed fear, stress or anxiety to take root and we need help to pull these evils weeds from our domains before they choke out more life.
I’ve been there. Even recently. Remember how this blog post started?
…and then I got new glasses. I hope you’ll try them too.